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Victims recall shock, pain after sniper attack on Ga. 365
'That energy, that speed, the force: you feel it' says gunshot victim
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Joe Welborn was one of the two individuals shot by a sniper on Friday, May 4, 2018, who was targeting cars traveling on Ga. Highway 365. - photo by David Barnes

Joe Welborn plugged the bullet wounds with his index fingers to stop the bleeding.

“I reached down to kind of feel the area and I noticed blood on my hand,” said Welborn, of Demorest.

Welborn, 73, was one of two people to be shot when a gunman opened fire May 4 on Ga. 365 between Tribble Gap and Mud Creek Roads. Harvey Kerby, 54, of Gainesville was also wounded. The shooter, 26-year-old Rex Harbour of Snellville, later killed himself.

Other vehicles took gunfire, including that of Denise Severy, 45, of Dacula, and a vehicle with four occupants from Bloomfield, New Jersey: Eileen Murray, 46, Christopher Hatton, 46, Maxwell Hatton, 11, and Joseph Hatton, 7.

The Times spoke with several of the victims and people whose cars were struck by bullets.

‘Angels that were sent to help us’

Joe and Sally Welborn were driving back home from an estate sale when they heard what sounded like a minor explosion.

“Almost immediately, Joe said, ‘My leg. My leg,’” Sally Welborn said.

Demorest man describes moment he was shot

Joe Welborn describes the moment he was shot in the leg while driving up Ga. 365 in northeast Hall County.
By: David Barnes

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The Welborns slowed the car as Sally called 911. A young couple appeared and came to help.

Sally Welborn said a young woman pulled off a top shirt and held it around Joe Welborn’s leg.

The 911 operator asked them if they had a belt to apply as a tourniquet.

“Between them and my wife there, we tried to see if we could stop some blood,” Joe Welborn said.

The couple — the Welborns never learned their names — were “angels that were sent to help us,” Sally Welborn said.

“When the EMTs got there, I remember hugging her and thanking her and then getting in the transport. I don’t know her name,” Sally Welborn said.

Hitting the leg below the calf and above the ankle, the bullet didn’t hit bone nor artery, Joe Welborn said, though he was feeling some numbness. His shin was wrapped in gauze Tuesday, May 8.

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Joe Welborn was one of the two individuals shot by a sniper on Friday, May 4, 2018, who was targeting cars traveling on Highway 365. - photo by David Barnes

“When they let me go in, I remember saying to Joe, ‘You didn’t get shot in Vietnam and now you get shot on (Ga.) 365,’” Sally Welborn said.

The Welborns said they have been blessed to receive an outpouring of support since the incident. 

To Sally Welborn, the incident was all a blur.

“We initially thought it was somebody shot us that was passing us and heading north. We didn’t think about being off the road shooting,” Joe Welborn said.

Both Joe Welborn and Kerby mentioned they planned to carry a firearm more often.

“I believe in my Second Amendment rights. I believe in protecting myself,” Joe Welborn said.

Gainesville man describes scene just after he was shot

Harvey Kerby talks about the moments after he was shot May 4, 2018, on Ga. 365 in northeast Hall County. The suspect, Rex Harbour, shot himself and died before reaching Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Kerby on May 8 still had the bullet lodged in his hip.
By: Shannon Casas

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‘That energy, that speed, the force: you feel it’

Harvey Kerby’s hip implant caught the bullet that pierced his Toyota Corolla on Ga. 365.

“If it ever happens in your life, there’s nothing like it. That energy, that speed, the force: you feel it,” he said.

Kerby was riding with his cousin and weiner dog Oscar to get a belt for his lawnmower when the shot was fired.

The first pop he heard made him think it was a water bottle or something bursting in the road, until he saw the other vehicles swerve.

“When I got to the same location where those two cars were at, it popped again. I knew then I was shot,” Kerby said, diagramming the scene with his finger on his Corolla.

The bullet is still in him, but Kerby hopes they can remove it. He is going to the doctor again May 9. 

Kerby’s cousin called 911.

“I was bleeding but not like I felt like I was going to bleed to death,” Kerby said.

Medical officials told Kerby that 95 percent of people shot in a similar area have the bullet travel upward through the body.

“I was lucky that it stopped it and it looked OK. They thought I was going to be OK. They wanted to keep me overnight and I said, ‘Why?’ I can lay at home and watch TV or I can lay here and watch TV,” he said.

The bullet pierced his car door and the seatbelt. The pain hit him that evening.

After he pulled over and assessed the bullet wound, Kerby said he spotted something moving and saw the suspect coming out of the woods.

“I’d rather he kill me, man, than (if) he had shot those kids and women in that car … Those were young kids,” Kerby said. 

‘It’s not something you ever expect’

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Denise Severy, left, and daughter Madison Severy were driving to Piedmont College Friday, May 4, when their car was hit by the Ga. 365 sniper. Both were uninjured. (Photo courtesy of Denise Severy)

When Denise Severy called 911 about a bullet hitting her Chevrolet Tahoe, she thought she would sound crazy.

“When I said, ‘I think we’ve just been shot at, she said, “You were.”’ And she was trying to ask us questions,” said Severy, of Dacula.

Severy was driving with her 17-year-old daughter Madison to visit Piedmont College. When they heard the noise, they thought it might have been a tire malfunction.

Severy called the scene “surreal,” as the steady traffic on the road disappeared.

“All of a sudden, we notice there’s no traffic at all. And that was kind of eerie, thinking maybe we’re in the middle of something that we shouldn’t be in,” Severy said.

The bullet hit the side door behind her, stopped by the speaker inside the panel.

The Severy family ended up rescheduling their trip to Piedmont and will go another day.

“It’s not something you ever expect to happen. She and I were kind of just sitting there almost trying to lighten the moment a little bit,” she said.

The shooter

The suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while fleeing authorities in his car and was identified Saturday as Rex Harbour, 26.

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Rex Harbour, 26, from Snellville, fired shots from the woods on Ga. 365 near Tribble Gap Road in northeast Hall County on Friday, May 4, 2018. He struck at least seven cars, wounding two drivers, before he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while fleeing from authorities. - photo by For The Times

Hate-filled documents calling the Parkland, Fla., mass shooter a hero were found at the home of the Snellville man who fired at least 17 shots.

“He had the weapons, he had the ammunition and obviously he had the will to inflict a lot of pain and a lot of hate,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said at a press conference Saturday, May 5.

In the documents found at the home where he lived with his parents, Harbour wrote that “(Nikolas) Cruz gave him courage and confidence,” Couch said. “The remainder of the documents that I saw were very hate-filled in that regard.”

Cruz killed 17 people Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Investigators with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office are working to determine why Harbour took position in the woods off Ga. 365 near Tribble Gap Road and shot a 9 mm pistol at northbound vehicles.

Couch said intelligence checks done with the help of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI did not show any history of violence or links to any criminal activity. The authorities also did not find any links between Harbour and Hall County.

After searching the vehicle, authorities found numerous firearms and an abundance of ammunition: a 9mm handguns, a .22-caliber Sears bolt-action rifle, a 12-gauge Springfield shotgun and a BB gun. He also had about 350 rounds of 9mm ammunition, 3,000 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition and 150 rounds of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition.

A search warrant was obtained for Harbour’s Snellville residence where authorities seized numerous electronic devices and the letters Harbour had written praising the Florida shooter. They found no specific target or explanation for Friday’s shooting.

“It appeared that he was targeting all Americans,” Couch said. “It didn’t specifically deal with any race, or ethnicity or anything of that nature. It was just very hate-filled and he targeted pretty much everybody.”

Authorities spoke with Harbour’s mother who said he was “mild-mannered and quiet.” His Facebook profile shows he graduated from Loganville High in 2010 and attended the University of Georgia from 2010 to 2012. He also worked in landscaping.

Shannon Casas contributed to this story.

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